Meanderings of a Minister


My Bible Adventure: Much More Than A Book of Children’s Bible Stories

I recently received a copy of My Bible Adventure Through God’s Word.  I anticipated being a bit underwhelmed by yet another simplified and dumbed down children’s Bible, but I was completely pleasantly surprised.  This Bible is so much more than that!

First, you actually get some Bible.  Many of these Bible books don’t actually give you any Bible.  They just give you a pre-digested version.  This one actually gives you some text.  Additionally, the book gives you an explanation or commentary on the Bible passage.  It is written on the child’s level, but does not assume the child needs things so watered down as to not be recognizable.

After the commentary, comes a prayer that you can pray with your little one.  You can either have them read it and pray it or, as we do with my 7-year old daughter, you can pray the prayer together.

Lastly, the Bible has a feature that I have not seen before.  It is a section called, “Take It With You”.  This is a short restatement of the key truth from the passage you have read that night.  This helps to make sure that you can remember and restate what you have read.

The book is broken up into 52 weekly readings, but we have used it nightly and it has not been too much.

I would say this Bible is usable and helpful for preschoolers up to about 8 or 9 years old.

I received this book from Book look in exchange for my honest review.



Ever Wish You Knew the Bible Better?

Have you ever wanted more out of your Bible reading, or have you ever wondered why it seems that others get so much when you get so little?  Perhaps you should do more than read.  Perhaps you should think deeply about scripture, spend time with it, replay it throughout the day, or meditate on Scripture.

I know that you might be thinking, “That is too hard or complicated!   I wouldn’t even know where to begin!”  Actually that is the very reason that Robert J. Morgan wrote the book, Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation:  Find True Peace in Jesus.  Morgan’s book is like having a master walk beside the reader to help with Biblical Meditation.  The book is a treasure trove of information, inspiration, illustration, and rumination, with absolutely no condemnation for any who have not tried to spend more or more serious time in God’s Word.

Each chapter is designed to give the reader a benefit of Biblical meditation.  In the chapter, Morgan tells the reader why they should meditate on scripture and gives examples that flesh out the ideas into actual life lessons.

In addition to the chapters, there is also scattered throughout the small volume, on the green pages, specific suggestions for how to get started.  This helps to make sure that the whole process does not seem to be just for the professionals, but puts the cookies on the bottom shelf for the rest of us.

Additionally, there is a 10-day meditation guide at the back where Morgan walks the reader through the method with helpful pointers and suggestions along the way.  Each day gives the reader a scripture, context, and some thoughts to help with the meditation process.

As bonus, at the end of the book, Morgan gives the reader an additional list of scriptures so that the process can become a habit for life.

I have been meditating on scripture for years, and I found this book to be simple, yet helpful.  I found it to be inspiring without being so far above everyone’s heads to make it unreachable.  I also found it so immediately applicable and practical that there really is no reason that a person could come away from the book questioning the importance, impact, or impassable process so crucial to Christian Growth.

This would be a great book to read on your own or with your children.  It would also be great to be used in church or in a small group setting.  It could also be incorporated into a discipleship strategy for new believers, but that is only the benefit to be had outside of the reader’s heart and mind.  Inside the heart and mind, there is no way to estimate its value or exhaust its uses.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



Character or Characters?
March 3, 2017, 1:46 pm
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You might have been intrigued by the title for this article.  You may have thought, “What would he mean by that?”  I am glad that you wondered this or I would not have a purpose for writing the rest of this article.  We could just stop with a title.

When reading Job recently for my quiet times, I came across a verse that really struck me.  Let’s see if it registers with you.

“Have I rejoiced at the extinction of my enemy, Or exulted when evil befell him?” (Job 31:29, NASB95)

In this verse, Job was defending himself.  He had gone from having lots of wealth, comfort and ease to having no of any of those things.  His friends had joined him and, after sitting with him for a week, they began to correct him.  Their assumption, because they did not know what happened in the throne room of heaven in chapter one, was that Job had sinned and therefore he was facing difficulty.  They accused him of many serious crimes and told him that the reason he was having difficulty was that God was judging his sin.  They were wrong, but they didn’t know it, yet.

By the time we get to this chapter, Job had heard from most of his friends and although they had different ways of arguing their cases, they had all accused him of wrong and felt the need to justify God’s actions by their accusations.  Job defended himself by stepping through each of the sins most prevalent in their day and denying involvement in any of them.

I read Job’s defense and I think that I do pretty good with most of what Job is using to defend himself.  He talks about not gazing at young women and lusting after them, check.  He talks about not running after deceit as a means of gaining greatly, check.  He talks about not having an affair, check.  He talks about not cheating those who work for him, check.  He talks about not withholding help from the poor who have asked, check.  He talks about not cheating orphans, check.  He talks about not trusting in gold, getting a little nervous.  Lastly, he talks about not being inwardly and secretly pleased when my enemy goes through a difficult time, ouch!

As I read his comment, I was challenged to search my heart and ask if I have ever felt smugly about the failure of someone who has been rude or mean to me.  I wonder if I have ever secretly smiled when someone passed me on the highway and then I see them pulled over, or when a criminal is caught or goes to jail.

What he is talking about is not about following just the characters or letters that make up the word of God, but about having the character of the Word of God.  Which do I spend more time pursuing?  The characters on the page or the character of the One about Whom the pages talk?  Do I measure my Christian life by the experiences of others I read or by what God is doing in my life right now?

As I read this passage, I was made immediately aware that I needed to repent.  I have certainly and often gloated over the difficulties that my enemies have gone through.  Jesus said,

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27–28, NASB95) Do I do that?  Or do I secretly think that they are getting what is coming to them?

This is a character issue.  This is what God is about changing in your life.  He wants your character to match yours.  He wants you to have a family resemblance to Him.  Do you?  Do I?  If not, will we tell Him, turn away from it, and follow Him?  Or will we attend the next study and think that is good enough?  Good question.  God question.



What English Bible Should I Read?
February 20, 2017, 12:16 pm
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I have a friend that pastors a church in Nebraska.  The other day, a man called his church and asked which version of the Bible my friend preaches from.  He informed the caller that he preached from the English Standard Version.  The caller asked why my friend had adulterated the Bible and why he would give up on God’s word.  When my friend attempted to explain to the man that God inspired the original writers of the Bible and that translations translate those original writings and that no translation is perfect, the man hung up on him.

So, how did we get the Bible in English?  While it is beyond the scope of this article to delve into the translation of the original autographs into the various languages until we get to English, know there is much more to the story.

The first full English version of the Bible was translated and copied by John Wycliffe in 1382.  He became concerned about the corruption that had entered the church and saw that the average Englishman had no access to the Bible from which to judge these corruptions and took it upon himself to study the original Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin manuscripts to produce an English version of the Bible.  His original version was published in 1380 and was a word for word translation of the Latin Vulgate produced by Jerome for the Roman Catholic Church.  Anyone caught reading Wycliffe’s bible was to forfeit their cattle, land, life, and goods.  Wycliffe, himself, was killed for the work.

The next English version of the Bible came on the scene in 1534.  The New Testament had been released in 1526 and the Bible was completed and published in 1534.  Its translator was William Tyndale.  He was born in Gloucesterhire and went to Cambridge.  He was convinced that the clergy and the laity alike knew little of scripture because the Wycliffe version was hard to read and many of the day had little education.  Again, Tyndale was found guilty of heresy and condemned to death for his translation work.  His last words before dying by burning at the stake were, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”

Next in the line of translators was Miles Coverdale, and Augustinian friar, but was influenced so strongly by the Reformation that he left the order and worked on an English translation of the Bible.  He used Tyndale’s English Translation, Luther’s German Translation, the Zurich Swiss Translation of Ulrich Zwingli, the Latin Vulgate or Jerome, and Pagnini’s Latin Version to produce the Coverdale Bible in English.  Threatened by Henry VIII, who was still sympathetic to the Roman Catholic Church and opposed to an English version of the Bible, Coverdale ran away to other parts of Europe to produce his new Bible.

The next years saw an explosion of English versions, some better, some not so much.  In 1537 John Rogers produced the Matthew Bible.  This time, Archbishop Cranmer of the Church of England, appealed to Thomas Cromwell to embrace the English version and he did so.  This began a desire for many to own an English bible for there was no persecution for doing so.

In 1539, Miles Coverdale, encouraged by the reception of the Matthew Bible, produced the Great Bible.  This time, Coverdale was not run away, but was embraced by the king and engaged for the work of an English Bible.  Originally printed in Paris, the Bible took some time to get into the hands of the people due to the tensions between France and England in that day.

The Geneva Bible was next in 1560.  A complete revision of the Great Bible, this was the first translation of the Bible into English that involved a committee of translators.  It was also the first English bible to include chapter and verse designations.  Using the original languages, the translators used the Great Bible as a starting point and amended it where needed to produce the new version.  With Queen Elizabeth sympathetic to the Protestant Reformation, the work proceeded uninterrupted and the results were widely embraced.

The Bishops’ Bible was produced in 1568.  Matthew Parker, the archbishop of the Church of England, was tasked with another English translation.  He made the translation with a conscious attempt to produce a version that would be safe for public reading and was written to support the power and position of the bishops within the Church of England.  Queen Elizabeth I and her chief minister, Sir William Cecil, approved the version and made it the only authorized version of the English Bible to be used in churches in chapels throughout the land.

The Roman Catholic Church responded with their own English version of the Bible in the Douay-Rheims Bible.  The New Testament was produced in 1582 and the completed Bible was produced in 1610.  This version was a direct translation of the Latin Vulgate version produced by Jerome many years earlier.  This version included the Apocryphal books which were considered scripture by the Roman Catholic Church, but not recognized by the Protestant churches.  The Apocryphal books were interspersed with the other Biblical books to reinforce that they were considered scripture.

After all of this, came the King James Version of 1611.  Also called the Authorized Version,  King James I came to power and was no friend of the Puritans of his day because they had constantly refuted his claims within the Anglican Church of his day.  Dr. John Rainolds made a motion at the Hampton Court Conference in 1604 that a new English version of the Bible be produced.  Richard Bancroft, future Archbishop of Canterbury opposed the translation of the Bible saying, “if every man humour were followed…there would be no end of translation work…”  The work was overwhelmingly recommended by the Court and authorized by King James with the following requirements:  (1) the Bishops’ Bible would be used as the basis for revision, but that the Hebrew and Greek of the original would be consulted.  (2) A variety of English words would be used for the same Greek and Hebrew so that the Bible did not appear too stilted.  (3) Words necessary in English, but not present in the original languages would be in italics.  (4) Name of biblical characters were to be those in common use.  (5) Old ecclesiastical words were to be retained.  (6) No marginal notes were to be used.  (7) Chapter and verse division were to be retained and headings added for pericopes or sections.

The King James Version of the Bible was produced in 1611.  Almost immediately, revisions were made, but were not given new names or designations.  A major revision was released in 1638.  Another revision came in 1729 as was the Greek New Testament.  Another revision would come in 1762 the Cambridge Bible of the Authorized Version was released by Dr. Thomas Paris with over 360 changes.  In 1768, John Wesley released The New Testament with Notes, for Plain Unlettered Men who know only their Mother Tongue.  This included thousands more changes.  1769 saw another revision by Dr. Benjamin Blayney with over 75000 changes.  The changes would continue, but it was in 1881 that the translations began to move away from the Authorized Version and would get new names for each Bible produced.

If you are still reading this article, you might wonder what all of this means or why I would bring it up.  This brief history shows that the Bible has been translated over and over, even prior to the English King James Version of the Bible.  So, what is the best translation?  Rick Warren is quoted as saying the best translation of the Bible is when we translate it into action in our hearts, lives, and relationships.

If you cannot study Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, the best thing to do is to use the version of the Bible your church uses.  To study it personally and corporately and pray for God to turn it into action.  But that’s just my opinion.



Loving the Christ of Christmas
December 9, 2016, 3:47 pm
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During the Christmas season, I find it interesting that many people who never give much thought to Jesus or to why He came to live a perfect life and die a substitutionary death begin to look into these things.  It is almost like God knew this would happen.  (If you saw my face, you would see me smiling as I typed that.)  They don’t actually get a theology book and study them per se, but they begin to think about the truths of the Christmas carols.  They begin to hear snippets of scripture.  They begin to think about the things of God.  But is this enough?

In Ephesians 6:24, Paul ended his letter to the church at Ephesus by saying,

Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.” (Ephesians 6:24, NASB95)

What did Paul mean by this and what does that have to do with Christmas?  Thanks for asking!  First, people at Christmas want to talk about God’s grace as though it were something universal.  This is an unfortunate misunderstanding of the proclamation of the angels to the shepherds.  Here is what they actually said,

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”” (Luke 2:10–14, NASB95)

Our Christmas carols, and our universalistic tendencies to not want to offend anyone, have taken these verses and changed them a bit.  They have changed them to “Glory to God in the highest and peace, goodwill to men.”  This makes it sound as though Jesus coming meant everyone goes to heaven, but this is not the case because the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  (Romans 6:23) But in order for a gift to do you any good, you have to accept it.  In order to accept the gift of eternal life, one must turn from their sin and place their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Many simply will not do this.  Many who live right next to us in a free land where they could believe with little opposition simply will not do this.  Many who sit in our churches every Sunday simply will not do that.

Back to Paul.  He was asking God for His grace to be with a certain subset of people.  Who were those people?  Those who love Jesus Christ?  Yes and no.  What do I mean?  First, to love God means to obey God.  (1 John 5:3) To love Jesus is to obey Him.  (John 14:15) So, to love Jesus is to obey Him, but Paul had more in mind than begrudging obedience.  He went further to describe that love as incorruptible.

In the Greek language in which Paul wrote and communicated, the word that we translate as incorruptible actually meant to spoil, to ruin, or even to kill.  What is a love for Jesus that would be incorruptible?  It would be a love that cannot be spoiled, ruined or killed.  It is a love that says, “No matter what you ask of me, it cannot be compared to the Cross on which you died for me, so I will obey because I love you.”  It is a love that would say, “I work for You.  You don’t work for me.  Let’s do what You want today and every day.”  It is a love that would say, when the world asks why we don’t give up on the “Jesus thing”, “Where would we go for He alone has the words of Life!”  It is a love that is not just in word or deed, but from a changed, redeemed, grateful, and amazed heart.  And that drives the words and deeds.

Do you love like that?  Do I?  Do we love the Christ of Christmas?



Lord, Teach Us to Pray!

Lord Teach Us to Pray

That was the request of the disciples one night after they had watched Jesus praying and speaking with His Father.  One of the disciples spoke up and asked Jesus to teach them how to pray just like they had seen John the Baptist teach his disciples.  Basically, they saw in Jesus a means and method of communicating with the Father that looked so much more intimate and vital than the rote prayers they were used to praying and they wanted to learn how to lean in to that kind of a relationship with the Father.

Jesus began by teaching them to call God their Father.  This was a new way of referring to God as through a personal relationship of love.  This would assume that they believe God loved them.  It would also assume that God wanted to hear from them.  Not because He did not already know what they were going to say or what was going on in their lives, but because God desired relationship with them even more than they desired the relationship with God.

Next, he told them to ask that God’s Name be hallowed.  Since we don’t use the word, hallowed, much, it would be helpful to think about what Jesus was saying.  He was saying that His disciples should make the entire basis of their prayer and their life to be the lifting up of God’s Name as holy, awesome, powerful, mighty, and wonderful.  They were to pray that people would think much of God’s Name and would want others to do the same.  This prayer is hard to pray honestly, if we are not living this day to day, so asking God is also a way of asking Him to help us to live that way.

“Your Kingdom come” was the next phrase Luke recorded in Luke 11.  This was to pray that God would come and rule the world like He rules in Heaven.  Not meaning that He is sovereign, because that is already the case everywhere you look.  God is sovereign, but what the disciples were to pray was that God’s reign would come to earth or that God’s plan for His world would be consummated.  Again, this is hard to pray if we are not living this out daily.

Jesus then taught them to pray that God would give them each day their daily bread.  While you and I know that all we have comes from God, Jesus wanted to make sure that they recognized God as the source of their sustenance.  For those of us who do not live with a lack of resources, this is even more important because we have a tendency to take for granted that what we have comes from our hard work instead of appreciating that even our ability to live, move, breathe, and work comes daily from God.

The next part of the prayer seems to come more natural for most Christians I know.  “Forgive us our sins”.  But Jesus did not stop there when teaching His disciples to pray.  He went on to teach them, “for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us”.  Jesus taught us to daily, or even periodically, to tell God that we have forgiven those who have done us wrong.  This is a tall order.  Even this week, I have experienced a hurt that I am struggling with and want to be able to put it behind me, but find myself struggling.  Jesus said in Matthew that if we did not forgive, we would not be forgiven.  This part of the prayer sends me back to my knees to beg for God’s help.

He ended with teaching them to pray that God would not lead them into temptation.  What did He mean by that?  Surely God would not lead someone to sin.  Would He?  Of course He would not.  This part of the prayer is a request that makes us aware of the times God gives us the way of escape.  It reminds us that we must lean on and follow God in order to avoid the temptations or to resist the sin to which the temptation might lead us.

Jesus taught His disciples to pray that their lives would be a constant advertisement for the awesomeness of God’s Name, as an example of His rule, as a testimony to His faithfulness, and as a surrender to his leadership.  When people look at your life, do they see any of that?  Maybe we had better start praying like we have been taught.



If You Can Keep It
July 7, 2016, 3:56 pm
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Eric Metaxas is a Christian author who specializes in historical biography.  He has written books of Deitrich Bonhoeffer and others who have had a major impact on church, world, and American history.  In his latest book, Metaxas reminded me of an event from our past that has major ramifications for today and certainly needs to be heard today.

In 1787, a woman approached Benjamin Franklin and asked what the founding fathers had given America in terms of a government.  Benjamin Franklin’s answer should be reverberating in our ears today.  He said, “A Republic…if you can keep it.”  What did Franklin mean by that statement?  First, he meant that we have a style of government that is a Democratic Republic.  What is a Democratic Republic?  Good question.  And while it is beyond the scope of a simple and limited newspaper article to exhaustively define it, basically this means that the government, “Of the people, by and the people, and for the people” is the intent and elected representation that then is free to interpret the will of the people and apply it on their behalf is the expression.

What this system was designed to accomplish is a liberty not seen in other parts of the world up to this time.  The people would have the freedom to elect their officials.  They would cast votes and one vote would be one vote.  For many of us who have grown up here, this only seems like the logical choice and is expected, but this is not the way the rest of the world still lives.  Now, many countries have followed our example and there were examples of democracy before us, but none that combined this with a republic style of government and a stated dependence upon God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Once our officials are elected, they are expected to represent the interests of those whom they represent.  Under a republic style of government, these officials are free to interpret those intentions and vote according to their interpretations.  What this was intended to accomplish was to keep from bogging down the system waiting to hear from constituency before a vote can be cast.  With a nation as vast as ours, any other system would be untenable at best or inconsistent with democracy at worst.

Now, what did Benjamin Franklin, a self-professed non-Christian, mean by, “If you can keep it.”?  Quite simply, Franklin knew that this type of system was susceptible to decay from apathy, disruption from enemy, and cooption from deception.  As we pray for our nation, which we should, we should remember these warnings.

Jeremiah 29:7 says, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.”  This was God telling the Israelites to pray for Babylon because that was where they had been taken into exile.  If God wanted the Israelites to pray for a corrupt, wicked, evil, and barbarous nation so that they would be blessed, how much more should we pray for our nation?

Would you join me in praying for our nation?  Let’s pray that God would protect us from decay.  That He would protect us from the decay that comes from a people that have grown to expect the blessings God has granted our nation and take it for granted.  The decay that comes when people make the responsibilities that come as a citizen of this great nation the duties of others and think they are only aboard for what they can receive.

Would you pray that God would protect us from the disruption from our enemies?  Some of our enemies are not foreign powers.  Some of our enemies are those who exploit our citizens through financial bondage, chemical bondage, sexual bondage, and spiritual bondage.  Would you pray that those who are trying to lead our nation astray would dry up and blow away?

And would you join me in pray that God would protect us from the cooption from the deceivers that live in our land and who want to take away our liberties.  Those who actively work against the Republic we have been given and want to keep.

There is a group of people who pray for our nation every evening at 8 PM.  Would you set an alarm on your phone, computer, or alarm clock or set up some kind of reminder that will remind you to stop and pray for our nation, for in its welfare you find your own and it just might be the only way we can keep our Republic.

God bless America.