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

 

 

“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.

“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)

“Who Moved My Pulpit?”

October 1st a new direction for this blog began.  Instead of trying to write a new entry 6 days a week, and then struggling to get it done and feeling guilty if I didn’t; I changed my schedule to writing 4 day (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) a week.  Monday are to be devotionals from the devotional reading that I do; Wednesdays are used for devotionals, book reviews, theological or doctrinal teaching, etc.; Fridays have reflections on what is going on in my life, and the things that I have learned; and, on Saturday we have our “Psalms for Saturday“.

This morning I want to talk about, and briefly review, a book that I have read in the lst week. The book is:

Thom S. Rainer  Who Moved My Pulpit?  “Leading Change in the Church” 2016, B & H Publishing, Nashville, TN, 143 pages

Last Thursday morning, November 9th, as I was scanning through Twitter, I noticed there was a coupon for a FREE book. Well, those sort of things always catch my attention but to get this book; you had to take the coupon to a Lifeway Christian Bookstore.  I just happened to be headed in the direction of the nearest store, so I stopped by and picked up a free copy of Who Moved My Pulpit?.

Thom Rainer is a remarkable writer for any one that wants to understand how individual congregations (churches) function.  It seems to me that he knows more about the politics of a local church, the life cycles of local churches, and other related local church topics; than anyone that I have ever read.  He has written such books as I Am a Church Member, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, Simple Church, Transformed Church, and many other titles.  This particular, short, volume is about leading change in the local church.  Anyone that has been in ministry for any length of time has either been in trouble for changing something (that wasn’t supposed to be changed), or has known of another minister that has been.  These changes could be from changing the order of services, changing the layout of the auditorium, the mission of that particular congregation, new carpet, all the way to more dramatic changes.

What Rainer does is this book is lay out a road map to navigate the change process; and the advice that he gives is very practical, and the examples that he uses are very real and to the point. The first chapter is introductory to why change can be difficult, and most every preacher will empathize with the story that is told in the chapter.  The second chapter is titled, “Five Kinds of Unmovable Church Members”, and as you read that you will be attaching names to the descriptions that he gives — because you will have known them all.

The next eight chapters are the road map that Rainer suggests that anyone trying to make a change (of any kind) in a local church follow.  The titles of the chapters will give you an idea of what he suggests, and may just prick your interest to the point of wanting to read the book.  They are as follows:

Stop …and Pray

Confront and Communicate a Sense of Urgency

Build an Eager Coalition

Become a Voice and Vision for Hope

Deal with People Issues

Move from an Inward Focus to an Outward Focus

Pick Low-Hanging Fruit

Implement and Consolidate Change

With the book only being 143 pages long, these chapters are not long and are full of information that will be valuable to the local preacher.

This book is written with those preachers that serve as “pastors” of a local church, and are recognized as the leader of the congregation.  Within the vast majority of churches of Christ, the preacher is not considered the pastor.  It is our understanding that local churches are to function with a plurality of elders (or overseers, or shepherds) that serve as the “leaders” of the local church.  I have noticed in the last few years, that there are those preachers in our fellowship that are beginning to call themselves “pastors”, but I am not one of them.  I am not the pastor of the Prairie Grove church, and do not want to be.  I am a minister, servant, of the Prairie Grove church, and I serve with our elders, as the minister of the Word, while they lead the congregation.  I have been called “pastor” many times; and most of the time (not always) I will reply that I am not the pastor, that I am the preacher.  The reason that I don’t do it every time, although I probably should, is that the most common reply is “same thing.”  But it really isn’t.

Over the years, the most common problem that I have seen in local churches of Christ, is that the elders don’t (won’t) lead, or facilitate change — so the preachers does it.  Honestly, most elders don’t have a problem with that, because it is one less thing that they have to do (and very few are full-time elders, and usually have busy lives with their jobs, family, etc.).  The problems usually arise when the preacher does something that one of them (elders), or a vocal church member, does not like.  Often that will lead to full-blown problems about who the boss really is, and will often lead to the preacher having to move (or worse moving, starting another church and dividing the one he left).

So, the question is — would I recommend this book?  Absolutely!  It has lots of valuable information, that needs to be shared.  But, I would absolutely discourage any preacher (from the churches of Christ) to try and use the information in this book to manipulate his elders to get the changes that he wants.  What I would recommend is that he get extra copies, and share them with his elders.  They are the ones that need to recognize the need for change when it arises.  They need to be the ones that have a dream for the future of their congregation.  The elders need to recognize that they we can’t always keep doing what we are doing, because it is not working.  They need to lead the congregation to a more outward focus.  They need to know the road map of how to make that happen.  As preachers, we can support them by our preaching of the Word, as they lead God’s people to be what God wants them to be.

On a scale of 10, I would give this about an 8.  I hope that you have found this to be of interest.  Look for more reviews in the coming weeks.

Bill

“Why Did That Happen?”

Inevitably, things happen in our lives, things that we don’t understand, and we don’t understand why they worked out the way that they did.  There are people in the Prairie Grove church, family members and friends, that are encountering difficult times, and some really challenges with life — that are trying at best, and can be much worse.

I wish I could explain why I have been so blessed, and so very fortunate in my life.  That tragedy and disease have not affected me, and my family, as it has other people and families that we know and love.  I thank God every day, for his goodness and blessings, and entreat Him for those that face the situations that I have not.

In 1973, I was preach for a small church in rural Lawrence County, Alabama.  I don’t remember if I was living in Florence, or Rogersville at the time — but it was a 25-30 mile drive from either place.  One night after services, several of us went to the house of one of the members for a time of fellowship.  When it was time to go, the pointed me to a back road that would get me home quicker.  It was dark, dreary, and rainy night; and I was driving a road that I had never driven before.  Somehow, I missed seeing the sign for the railroad crossing, and I went over the little rise for the tracks way too fast.  The result was that I ended up running a stop sign, and ended up in a cotton field on the other side of the road.  When I got out of the car, walked around to the back, and sat down on the bumper of my little red Volkswagen beetle — I just sat there and trembled!  That stop sign that I ran, was for the intersection of that country road and Highway 72.  Highway 72 is a four land highway that is the main connection between the Shoals are and Decatur. As I sat there and watched numerous semi’s going both ways, I thanked God that, somehow, I had made it across the highway without being hit.  You can call it luck, providence, or what you want; but, in my mind, it will always be that God looked out for, and protected me that night.

I cry out to God Most High,

  to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.

He send from heaven and saved me,

        rebuking those who hotly pursue me;

God sends his love and his faithfulness.  (Psalm 57:2-3, NIV)

Theologically speaking, I don’t believe that God has a detailed plan of every event that is scheduled for my life.  I believe that I make choices that can change the direction of my life, and that God allows me to choose the path (even if it is the wrong one).  But I do believe that there are times that God intervenes in the affairs of the world — and I don’t know why He chooses the ones that He does.

The passage in Psalms, reminded me of a responsibility that is given to those that God intervenes on their behalf.  As an acknowledgment of what God has done, my life out to be more devoted to the “purpose” that God has for all lives.  God’s plan for all lives, is that they live in relationship with Him; loving, serving, sharing.  Pray that I will recognize how blessed that I am, and that I will fulfill His “purpose” for my life.  Peace.

“Friday Reflections — 11-10-17”

Have you ever been disappointed in someone because you knew they could do better, and they didn’t.  That was said a lot about me, back in my elementary days, as  a student in school.  I can’t tell you how many times, on the back of a report card it would say “Bill, could do much better if he would apply himself.”  I’m sure that many of us have had those same feelings about our children.

This past Saturday, I had that same feeling about my football team — the Arkansas Razorbacks.  You know, I have come to the conclusion that we are just not very good this year, and I understand that there are years when that happens.  I don’t have a problem understanding when teams that are better beat us, although I really don’t like being embarrassed (and feeling as if the team gave up when they got behind).  BUT, this past Saturday I was embarrassed, because I felt as if the team could have played better if they had applied themselves.  To play a team from a smaller college division, that has only won 1 game this year, and to be down in the 4th quarter, and then have to rally to win by one point — was embarrassing!  I hope they were embarrassed, and they will put out more effort this week.  Losing is no fun, but I believe I would rather lose and know that I competed — than win, and feel like I did not do my best.

SIDENOTE — I don’t like to be critical, and as I was typing the two paragraphs above, my mind wandered.  As it wandered, I was asking myself if Jesus was ever disappointed in my efforts?  Sadly, I would have to say there are plenty of times that He is.  So it might be that the application from those first two paragraphs, would be just as applicable to me.  Ouch!

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On Sunday mornings, during the assembly, I usually sit in the back of the auditorium until just before it is time for me to preach.  This past Sunday morning, about 5 minutes into our services, a very distinguished looking couple walked into our services and sat down.  I knew immediately that it was Joel and Charlene Byrd.  Joel and I were classmates at York College (York, Nebraska) from the fall of 1969, through the spring of 1971.  Joel grew up in Menifee, Arkansas — so we both had ridden the bus from Arkansas to Nebraska, to go to school.  This was the first time that I had seen Joel since May of 1971, and was thrilled to see him again.  Joel and his wife, Charlene, who were vacationing in Branson, MO., got up on Sunday morning and drove two hours to Prairie Grove to listen to me preach, and to visit; and then went back to Branson for the rest of their vacation.  They did stay after services, and enjoy a meal with our Care Group.

Joel has encouraged me repeatedly, to take the things that I write on this blog (and on Facebook before that), and put the devotionals into book form.  I may never do that, but he will never know just how much his kind words have encouraged me in my writing.  That ought to be a lesson for all of us, that our encouraging words can mean more than we will ever know.  Thanks, Joel.

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Sunday night, 6 couples met at our house for our monthly Bible Study Group.  The majority of this group has been meeting on a pretty regular basis for the last 12-13 years.  We will have a fellowship meal together, discuss things that we need to be praying about, and then have a time of study and discussion.  Over the years we have studied books of the Bible, or read inspirational books together (and discussed them).  This year, beginning in September, we are reading and discussing Philippians; and this past Sunday we were looking at Philippians 2:1-11.  It may be one of the best sessions we have ever had (in my opinion).  If you haven’t lately, read Philippians 2:1-4 — and then make some real personal applications with it.  I believe that you will be glad that you did.

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Birthdays have been a really big deal this week!  Monday, November 6th, was Bob Beeler’s birthday (one of my very best friends); Tuesday, November 7th, was Malia’s birthday; and Wednesday, November 8th, was my birthday AND  my grandson’s, Kade.  So, as you can see, there were a lot of “Happy Birthdays” being tossed around the house.  Kade turned 15, and that is really the only one that you need to know.  The others have quit counting!

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Yesterday, I had an appointment at Behrents Endodontic Specialists, with Dr. Behrents.  Long story short, Monday, November 20th, I will have a root canal.  Just the sound of saying a “root canal on my tooth”, does not sound good.  It will be my first, and, hopefully, my last.

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This afternoon, I am going to try and do something that I have never done!  On my wood pellet grill/smoker; I am going to attempt to “smoke” a roast.  This is not just any roast, it is a roast from a moose.  Dave Johnson went to British Columbia, Canada and killed a moose in September; and was kind enough to give me a roast from the meat.  He gave me instructions on how to do it, and I am going to attempt to follow them.  I’ll let you know how it turns out!

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This you know, my beloved brethren.  But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.  (James 1:19-20, NASB)

“Friday Reflections — 11-3-17”

Some of my favorite places are bookstores!  I can spend hours looking, touching, reading, etc.  Those of you that know me are not surprised by that, as you know of my love for books.  I love places like Barnes & Nobles, Dickson Street Used Books (Fayetteville, AR), and especially places like Lifeway Christian Bookstore (Rogers, AR).  This past Saturday, I had about 30 minutes to spare (before the football game), and I took the time to go visit the local “Friends of the Library” used bookstore.  It made my year when they opened this bookstore in our town, and I usually try to get there at least once, every other week (and that is challenging, since they are only open about 6 hours a week).  I have picked up some good books, out of their religion section — and some fiction works, by authors that I read and collect.

What brought these thoughts about bookstores to my mind this morning, is that I read a little while ago, that William B. Eerdmans’ Publishing Company is closing their corporate bookstore.  In the religious (evangelical) world, their have been 4 publishing company that I have really looked to for quality academic and scholarly books:  Eerdmans’, Baker, Zondervan, and Inter-Varsity.  There was a time that Word really came on strong, but it didn’t last long.  Now, one of my favorite publishing companies is B&H.  Of course, there are some smaller companies, operated by members of the churches of Christ, that I always want to see what they have available.  But, the point that I want to make is that if one of the really big publishing companies is closing their bookstore, that scares me for the future of bookstores in general.

In this age of digital information, people are not buying books like they once did.  Of course, the internet access to places like Amazon, Alibris, and other large book merchandisers; has put the squeeze on local bookstores.  I am as guilty as anyone — my Kindle tablet probably has at least 200 volumes on it, and I confess that most of my books (new and used) are purchased through Amazon.  I really doubt that I change my habits, but I will still visit the local bookstores; and enjoy being there, and I will be sad if they close.

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God has really been good to the Prairie Grove church of Christ, and I hope that we are appreciative of what He has done.  He has blessed us with a prosperous economy, and some very generous people that are committed to getting the work of the Lord done.  We are blessed in that we are out of debt on our physical facilities, which enables us to be more involved in many good works.  One of the ways that we have chosen to do that is by using a 48 week budget for the church.  That enables us to use our fifth Sunday contributions for other things.  This year we have used the 5th Sunday in April to support a work in Honduras that we have been involved with for a number of years, sending 4-6 people each summer on  short-term mission trips.  Jesus Pagagua, the local Honduran preacher, was in the states and spoke to us about the work, and what their dreams were for the future.  Because of the personal involvement of so many of people here, the contribution for that good work was a little over $6,000.00.  The 5th Sunday in July, Dr. Bob Whiddon, from Hope Harbor Children’s Home, in Claremore, OK spent the day with us, telling us about the good things that are happening there; and the contribution was just over  $2,500.00.  This past Sunday, Ryan Lee, the Chief Development Officer for One Kingdom, a ministry of the White’s Ferry Road church in West Monroe, LA, was here and told us about the work of World Radio.  The Prairie Grove church has supported World Radio, for as long as most of us in this congregation can remember.  I was really impressed with the work of One Kingdom (there are other works under that umbrella), and their approach to assisting in other parts of the world.  The contribution this past Sunday for One Kingdom was $2,864.75.

We have one more fifth Sunday this year, December 31st, and that day the contribution will go to Life Ministries, a local community benevolence program in Prairie Grove.  We are in the process of lining up the speakers for next year, and are excited about the possibilities for good that can happen.  I first heard about this kind of approach in the 1970’s, when the Bethel church of Christ, in Athens, AL, used the 48 week budget; and designated the 5th Sunday contributions for mission work.  I would encourage any congregation, where this is feasible, to consider doing this.  It gives your members more information about the works they are involved in, and promotes a feeling of ownership in the work that the local church is doing.

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This coming Saturday evening, I have the opportunity to participate in something very special.  Our daughter, Courtnee,  husband Yancey, daughter Brooklyn, Malia, and I are taking her son, Kade, out for a birthday dinner.  You know, it doesn’t hardly seem possible that the boy can be 15 years old.  It seems like only yesterday, that I held him in my arms on the day that he was born.  Why does it seem like you turn around twice, and they are grown.  There are not many things that I would quit watching a Razorback football game early for — but, this is definitely one of them.

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Weight — March 15, 2017 — 324 pounds

Weight — November 3, 2017 — 223 pounds