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9 Things You Should Know About the ESV Bible

Last month the publisher and translator team that produced the English Standard Version (ESV) announced the “text of the ESV Bible will remain unchanged in all future editions.” But after public debate about making the latest edition the “permanent text” they announced this week, “We have become convinced that this decision was a mistake.”

Here is what you should know about the ESV, one of the most popular English translations of Scripture:

1. The idea for the ESV Bible originated in the early 1990s when Lane T. Dennis, president of the nonprofit book publishing ministry Crossway, discussed the need for a new literal translation of the Bible with various Christian scholars and pastors. Near the end of the decade, the translation committee began work. The ESV was released in 2001, with minor revisions being released in 2007, 2011, and 2016.

2. The starting point for the ESV translation was the 1971 edition of the Revised Standard Version (RSV). Each word of the text was also checked against and based on the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible as found in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (2nd ed., 1983), on the Greek text in the 1993 editions of the Greek New Testament (4th corrected ed.), and Novum Testamentum Graece (27th ed.). Crossway adds that in “exceptional, difficult cases, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Septuagint, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac Peshitta, the Latin Vulgate, and other sources were consulted to shed possible light on the text, or, if necessary, to support a divergence from the Masoretic text.”

3. The three general philosophies of Bible translation philosophy are formal equivalence, functional equivalence, and optimal equivalence. As Dave Croteau has explained, formal equivalence (“word-for-word” translation) attempts to translate the Bible as literally as possible, keeping the sentence structure and idioms intact if possible (examples: NASB, KJV); functional equivalence (“thought-for-thought” translation) attempts to translate the text so it has the same effect on the current reader as it had on the ancient reader (example: NLT); and optimal equivalence falls between the former approaches by balancing the tension between accuracy and ease of reading. As an “essentially literal” translation, the ESV most closely aligns with a formal equivalent translation philosophy in that is “seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer.”

4. The translation was overseen by a 15-member Translation Oversight Committee (including TGC Council member R. Kent Hughes) and another team of more than 50 Translation Review Scholars (including TGC Council member Ray Ortlund).

5. On the Christian Booksellers Association 2014 listing of top selling Bible translations, the ESV ranked fifth in dollar sales and fourth in unit sales. During the past 15 years, he ESV has distributed more than 100 million print copies as well as more than 100 million electronic copies.

6. In 2013, Gideon’s International—a ministry that distributes free Bibles to locations including hotels, motels, hospitals, convalescent homes, medical offices, domestic violence shelters, prisons, and jails—announced it would be transitioning its modern English version from the New King James Version (NKJV) to the ESV. This change will make the ESV one of the most widely distributed versions in the world.

7. The readability level of the text of the ESV is around 8th grade (7.4 on the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and 74.9 on the Flesch Reading Ease). In comparison, the NIV is also at the 7th-8th level, the KJV at the 12th grade level, and The Message at the 4th-5th grade level.

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“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

~ 1 Peter 1.8-9

DSCN1327 “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Jesus in Luke 19.40)

IMG_1007“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” ~ Isaiah 55.12

While beginning to sense God’s call to ministry in February of 1998, I joined a car full of college-aged men to travel north from Mobile, Alabama, on I-65 to Birmingham, to attend the Conger Lectures on Preaching at Beeson Divinity School. ‘The Supremacy of God in Preaching’Friends described that year’s lecturer as the “John MacArthur of the North.” His name was John Piper.

So there I sat in the Hodges Chapel at Beeson, hanging on his every syllable. With each word, my call to ministry intensified. The Minneapolis pastor spoke as one having authority—an authority rooted in God’s Word and accentuating God’s glory.

It was an introductory dose of what all who’ve heard Piper have come to expect—an unveiling of the majesty and supremacy of God. That day I grabbed a copy of his book The Supremacy of God in Preaching (Baker). I quickly devoured, marking up every page. I’ve since re-read it every few years, and now, 25 years since its initial publication, it deserves renewed attention. (Baker recently published a revised and expanded edition to mark the anniversary.)

6 Takeaways from an Enduring Volume

How has the volume stood up over a quarter-century? It remains as powerful, convicting, and encouraging as at the outset.

Here are six takeaways:

1. To preach is to put one’s deepest beliefs on display.

For better or worse, what comes out in the pulpit each Sunday will, over time, reveal what the preacher truly believes and prizes. At the most foundational level, this begins with his theological presuppositions. Mark it down: the preacher’s presuppositions always shape the sermon. Luther and Spurgeon’s Christ-centered hermeneutic impacted their exegesis and their preaching. Calvin’s God-centered approach did the same.

Piper’s God-centered “Christian hedonism” radiates throughout his preaching. It also drives this book. Piper puts preaching on a higher ground—pointing preachers to engage the true, deep longings of the human heart. As he observes, “People are starving for the greatness of God, but most of them don’t even know it.”

2. The preacher should point his people to the grand truths of God.

In doing this, it is not that the preacher dismisses felt needs; he eclipses them. Piper writes:

My burden is to plead for the supremacy of God in preaching—that the dominant note of preaching be the freedom of God’s sovereign grace, the unifying theme be the zeal that God has shown for his glory, the grand object of preaching be the infinite and inexhaustible being of God, and the pervasive atmosphere of preaching be the holiness of God. . . . Then when preaching takes up the ordinary things of life—family, jobs, leisure, friendships; or the crises of our day—AIDS, divorce, addictions, depression, abuses, poverty, hunger, and, worst of all, unreached peoples of the world, these matters are not only taken up. They are taken all the way up to God.

3. The preacher should be relentlessly and precisely biblical.

After all, the preacher is to be God’s mouthpiece—his human spokesman—and it is high treason to misquote, misrepresent, or under-dignify the King and his Word. When the preacher vaguely references Scripture, Piper warns:

We are simply pulling rank on people when we tell them, and don’t show them from the text. This does not honor the Word of God or the work of the Holy Spirit. I urge you to rely on the Holy Spirit by saturating your preaching with the Word he inspired.

4. Balance gravity and gladness in the pulpit.

Reading The Supremacy of God in Preaching is a refresher on the majesty of God and the gravity of preaching. It is simply impossible for a warmhearted, thinking preacher to finish the book without sensing anew the weightiness of the preaching task. But Piper couples the call to gravity with a plea for gladness, rooted in the character of God:

Gladness and gravity should be woven together in the life and preaching of a pastor in such a way as to sober the careless soul and sweeten the burden of the saints.

There is a difference between being glad and being giddy, between being weighty and being dour. Strive for the former; reject the latter.

5. Preach to stir up holy affections within your people.

Piper perceptively observes:

Good preaching aims to stir up “holy affections”—such emotions as hatred for sin, delight in God, hope in his promises, and tender compassion. The reason is that the absence of holy affections in Christians is odious.

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If you’re a Christian, you believe reading the Bible is important. But have you considered how to approach it in the first place? What kind of “heart posture” is necessary?

God cares deeply about these questions. Here are seven ways we should approach his Word in 2016.

1. Approach It Humbly 

The Bible is empirical evidence that the Maker of the universe is a God who initiates, who reveals, who talks. There are, after all, only two options when it comes to knowledge of one’s Creator: revelation or speculation.

Either he speaks, or we guess.

And he has spoken. As Carl F. H. Henry said, the God of heaven and earth has “forfeited his personal privacy” to befriend us through a book. The Bible is like an all-access pass into the revealed mind and will of God.

Now, given that we’re not only creatures of the dust but rebels against heaven’s throne, this is astounding. The King would’ve been entirely right to leave us to ourselves, sunk in an ocean of ignorance and guilt.

But he didn’t. He peeled back the curtain. And then opened his holy mouth.

Any authentic knowledge of God hinges on his generous self-disclosure to us. Only through his Word can we know who he is, what he’s like, what he demands, and how we may know him. This ought to humble us deeply.

2. Approach It Desperately

Having rehearsed God’s law one final time before his death, Moses looks at the people of Israel and says, “These are not just idle words for you—they are your life” (Deut. 32:47). The stakes could not be higher. Not only are our spiritual lives launched by God’s Word (James 1:181 Pet. 1:23), they are sustained by it too. As Jesus declared, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4).

The psalmist, too, ached to hear the words of God: “My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times,” he exclaimed. “I cling to your testimonies. . . . I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments” (Ps. 119:2031131).

Your soul will wither and die without the Bible. Approach it desperately.

3. Approach It Studiously

Imagine if you asked me about my wife and I responded, “Oh, she’s incredible—the most amazing girl I’ve ever known! She’s from Oregon, has gorgeous red hair, and hates chocolate.” Now, would my chocolate-loving brunette who hails from Virginia feel honored by this description? Of course not. I can gush about her all day, but unless my words reflect who she really is, she’ll be insulted.

Why, then, are we so careless when thinking and speaking of our Creator?

“Great are the works of the LORD,” the psalmist exclaims, “studied by all who delight in them” (Ps. 111:2). The New Testament, too, commends engaging Scripture with care: “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).

Come to the Bible with a learner’s posture, asking the Author to teach you wonderful things.

4. Approach It Obediently

The psalmist didn’t just long to understand God’s commands; he wanted to obey them, too.

You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! . . . Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
 and obey it with all my heart. . . . I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands. (Ps. 119:4–534, 60)

The New Testament reinforces this urgency of submitting to Scripture: “Whoever says, ‘I know [God],’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person” (1 John 2:4–5). Or, as James simply urges, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).

5. Approach It Joyfully

As a dad, I’m not always pleased when my kids obey me. They need to do so with a happy heart, too. Anyone can muster grudging compliance, after all, but real obedience flows from love and joy (John 14:15).

The Book of Psalms opens with a man whose “delight is in the law of the LORD” (Ps. 1:2). He can’t get enough of it. Likewise, the prophet Jeremiah confesses, “When [God’s] words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight” (Jer. 15:16). Even Jesus said the purpose of his words is to induce joy: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).

Cracking open my Bible feels like a duty at times. It will for you, too. We’re fallen humans in a fallen world. When that moment arrives, though, press on. Press through. Ask for help. Plead for joy. It’s a prayer the Father loves to answer.

6. Approach It Expectantly

Since the Bible’s ultimate author is God, it is a book of unparalleled power. Its words can melt hearts (Jer. 23:29) and change lives (John 17:17).

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By Shane Pruitt

8.26.UNBIBLICAL

There are many things that Jesus-following, church-going, Bible-believing Christians believe that are completely unbiblical.

One of the greatest gifts that God gave mankind was the Holy Bible because the Bible is literally God revealing Himself, and communicating Himself to mankind in written word. Anything and everything that we know about God comes from these Holy Scriptures, and they contain the totality of what we need to know about becoming a Christian, and everything that we need to know about living the Christian life.

Orthodox Christianity teaches that the Bible was inspired and authored by the Holy Spirit of God using human instruments. It also believes that in its original languages of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic; it is without error and fault.

However, there are many things that Jesus-following, church-going, Bible-believing Christians believe that are completely unbiblical. How does this happen? Often, we’ll hear someone quote a statement that sounds nice to us, and we’ll begin repeating it as though it’s biblical truth without ever researching it in the Scriptures. Several of these unbiblical statements have gained enough traction that many people believe they’re actually Bible verses. Not only are the statements unbiblical; most of them teach the opposite of what the Bible teaches.

Here is a list of nine popular unbiblical statements that Bible-loving Christians tend to believe:

1. God helps those who help themselves.

This statement is actually anti-Gospel. Self-reliance and self-righteousness, or the attitude of trying harder and doing better, actually gets in the way of the work of God. Jesus saves those who die to themselves: “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

2. God wants me to be happy.

It’s a common belief that God exists to be our “personal genie,” waiting to give us our every wish. It’s amazing how we will justify our sinful actions by saying, “God just wants me to be happy.” Happiness is tied to feelings and emotions that are often based on circumstances, and those change all the time. God wants us to be obedient to Him, trust Him and know that everything He does is for our good, even if it doesn’t make me feel “happy” in that moment. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

3. We’re all God’s children.

Although God has created everyone … not everyone relationally belongs to Him. Only those who have repented of sin, placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and possess the Holy Spirit of God inside of them can claim Him as their Father: “But you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:15b–16).

However, those who don’t have Jesus as their Savior, nor have the Holy Spirit of God inside of them, actually belong to Satan: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1 – 2). “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10).

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November 6, 2015

If anyone’s fully qualified to write a comprehensive manual on best practices of pastoral ministry, surely it is R. Kent Hughes.

Hughes served 41 years in pastoral ministry, including 27 at College Church outside Chicago. He’s also authored numerous books, including Disciplines of a Godly Man (Crossway, 2007) and Set Apart: Calling a Worldly Church to a Godly Life (Crossway, 2003), and serves as editor of Crossway’s Preaching the Word series. He’s written several volumes in that series, including commentaries on Acts, Ephesians, Colossians, and Hebrews.

His newest book, written with contributing editor Douglas Sean O’Donnell, will no doubt become a go-to manual for pastors. The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry (Crossway) is a wide-ranging and delightfully detailed 592-page work that offers wisdom on many aspects central to pastoral ministry—from the elements that compose a Christ-centered worship service to the important tasks of pastoral counseling and visiting the sick. I asked TGC Council member Hughes about The Pastor’s Book, reflections on four decades in ministry, wisdom for young pastors, and more.


The Pastor’s Book is comprehensive, covering everything from the ordering of worship services, to hospital visits, to the use of creeds, to selection of hymns for worship, to conducting funerals and weddings. What was the inspiration behind the book?

Lane Dennis, president of Crossway, asked me to consider the idea of authoring a book on pastoring, drawing on more than 40 years in ministry. I had never thought of such a project. But I agreed to give it some thought, which I did for several weeks, racking my brain as to what I would’ve liked to have had in a single “go to” volume for pastors.

The subjects that came to mind were: Sunday worship, annual services, weddings, funerals, public prayers, the use of creeds, hymns and songs, baptism, communion, pastoral counseling, and hospital visitation. I also asked that the book not suffer from brevity and lack of specificity. So, for example, in the past I wished for some sample homilies for marriages and funerals, so I suggested ten (which I did get!).

I then met with Dennis and team of editors and presented them with the tentative outline of topics covering a broad range of ministry that, after some discussion, they enthusiastically endorsed. Happily, Douglas Sean O’Donnell agreed to serve as contributing editor. And so the work began.

As a pastor I realize seminary prepared me well to do things like select and exegete a text, illustrate sermons, and teach doctrine, but there were many things in everyday ministry for which it could not prepare me. If you could address seminarians transitioning into real-life ministry, what one thing would you say?

I’d say that if you’re committed, as I was, to a gospel-centered expository pulpit, you might be tempted to imagine that alone constitutes a gospel ministry. Well, the pulpit is certainly central (I devoted about 20 hours per week to sermon preparation, which amounted to some 24,000 hours while at College Church), but that centrality was the “ground game” for gospel ministry.

In truth, some of the things we may regard as diversions are in fact immensely gospel-freighted opportunities—events like weddings and funerals and hospital visitation. The Pastor’s Book posits that all ministry is, and must be, gospel-centered.

You write about the imaginary but ideal church, and ask the reader to ruminate on the question, “What does your biblical ideal of corporate worship look like?” What would your ideal corporate worship service include?

It would be a service of the Word in which the biblical text informs the shape and progress of the service so that the choice of songs, the Scripture reading(s), and the prayers would all elevate the preaching of the Word and exalt Christ. This kind of intentionality requires a lot of hard thinking and prayer from pastors and church leaders.

The Pastor’s Book includes an excellent section on hospital visits. I haven’t seen much written on that and similar topics like member visitation. But time is short for pastors; why not devote our limited time to sermon preparation, which benefits everyone, and trust others to handle visitation and care duties?  

Certainly a pastor isn’t doing his job if he imagines visitation is his singular domain. In fact, it unwittingly shadows a Roman Catholic view of ministry—that one hasn’t been truly visited by God unless the padre (you!) shows up. It implies your prayers and presence are more efficacious than those of the other elders and the flock. Indeed, this unfortunate view is reflected in many traditional and fundamentalist churches that expect the pastor to do all visitation of the sick. That said, the pastor who delegates all visitation to others will be functionally out of touch with his people (and it will show in his preaching).

When he visits, the pastor will be with families in their deepest times of crisis. And in all instances, he’ll be ministering to far more people than the sick and dying. And the deep needs to which he ministers will afford sweet gospel opportunities. This means the visitation of the hospitalized doesn’t derail the pastor from ministry, but is central to it. Of course, a church must seek to be organized so the ill are being cared for by elders, deacons, deaconesses, and the caring flock.

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 You make known to me the path of life;
  in your presence there is fullness of joy;
  at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
~ Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

Trigger warning! The Bible may disturb your emotional health (COMMENTARY) – Religion News Service

A boy from the Mennonite community reads the bible at his school in Cuauhtemoc, Mexico o November 8, 2012. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez  *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-WAX-COLUMN, originally transmitted on August 17, 2015.

(RNS) Before you read this article, be warned! You may come across something you disagree with, or an idea that makes you uncomfortable, or a statement that causes offense. Please shut off your mobile device or close your browser, and back away slowly from your computer.

I’m kidding, of course. But only a little.

There’s a movement afoot in many universities and colleges across the country. It’s driven by the vision for the campus to be a “safe space” where ideas and words that make someone uncomfortable can be easily avoided. In New York magazine, Jonathan Chait describes it as a renewed strain of political correctness, a kind of “language policing” that poisons political debate and shuts down discussion.

In The Atlantic, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff argue that this strain of political correctness is primarily about “emotional well-being,” protecting students from psychological harm. It’s “the coddling of the American mind,” they say, in a twist on Allan Bloom’s famous work, “The Closing of the American Mind.”


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One example of turning college into a “safe space” is the recent trend of putting “trigger warnings” on books — alerts from a professor that something in the course may stir up a strong, emotional response from the students. The motivation behind trigger warnings is sensitivity to people who have had traumatic experiences, a way of letting them know they may be disturbed by what they read.

Unfortunately, in a collegiate atmosphere tense with the fear of perpetual offense, the number of “triggers” have multiplied, and many of the most important books in history are getting labeled, and in some cases, dismissed.

For example, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” gets a trigger warning because of its depiction of misogyny and abuse. The classic myths of ancient Greek literature get trigger warnings because of rape.

Can you imagine how many trigger warnings the Bible would get? If there has ever been a book that is designed to make you uncomfortable and challenge your way of thinking, it’s the Bible.

Christian radio stations love to say they’re “safe for the whole family,” but that slogan wouldn’t fit if they were reading the whole Bible out loud as part of their programming. Violence, abuse, torture, rape, slavery — these are the warnings we’d have to issue by the time we finished reading the Bible’s first book, Genesis.


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The further you read, the more challenges you find to today’s political correctness. The storyline of the Bible starts with a God who created human beings in his image as the crowning achievement of his creation (trigger warning: speciesism!). He created humans male and female (gender binary alert!) to subdue and cultivate the Earth (ecology alert!), to join together as the two halves of humanity in covenant marriage (marriage discrimination!), to be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth with icons of his glory (overpopulation!).

After the human race revolts against God, the stories of the Bible follow a long line of humans who are idolatrous to the core, willing to substitute anything and everything for worshipping God (low self-esteem!). The diagnosis for humanity is bleak, but the thread running through the narrative is one of God showing mercy and grace to his chosen people, Israel, (ethnocentrism!) in order that he might one day bless the whole world.

For Christians, God’s rescue plan happens only through sacrifice — blood sacrifice that covers our guilt and shame (Sorry, PETA!). Their Bible climaxes with Jesus the Messiah who lives the life God always intended for humanity, shows the world what God is like, extends mercy to those who oppose him, and willingly offers himself as the final and ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world. In the Gospels, the trigger warnings multiply: torture, injustice, abuse, and execution.

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